On Monday I wrote about how busy pastors can use this time of reduced activity to slow down and refresh. While it may be anywhere between a couple of weeks to several months before we can resume our normal patterns of life, and pastors will want to be sure that they continue ministering to their people. Let me suggest some ways this can happen:
Stay In Contact WithYour Seniors
Much of what I’ve read online about how Christians should respond to the coronavirus has been about not giving in to fear. People are concerned and uncertain. Obviously, this is new for all of us. But if there is one group that may be prone to fear, it is our older generation.
Let me suggest you set up a system whereby your seniors are contacted every couple of days. Depending on the size of your church and the number of seniors, you may want to call them personally once every week or two, find out how they are doing, see if they have needs, and pray with them. But it would also be good to involve others in leadership and younger members of the congregation.
One doctor who spoke at President Trump’s news conference on Monday said that Millennials have a network via social media, but most seniors don’t have that kind of online presence. They will appreciate being looked after.
Continue Teaching Your People
Some pastors can live-stream their worship services. Others can record a sermon and put it on YouTube or on the church website. Don’t stop preaching just because you don’t have a worship service.
There are other approaches you can take to teaching and preaching. Choose a short NT letter or some Psalms and distribute suggested readings and reflective questions. You can do this for most of your people by a weekly email. For those without email access, postal mail works fine.
In addition, you can ask your people to email or phone in personal prayer requests that you can include with the above. You may want to ask them not to send in requests for people unrelated to the congregation. You know how easy it is for requests people to give requests like “A guy I used to work with has a neighbor who’s uncle’s cow . . . .” Well, maybe not that one, but you know what I mean. If people are faced with a bunch of requests about people they don’t know, they are likely to ignore those requests.
Of course, you don’t want to overload your congregations’ inbox, but if they heard from you twice a week, you will minister to them with some regularity. Including links to helpful articles relating to how believers deal with trouble would be appropriate too.
Recommend Good Preachers
If you do not stream or post your sermons, encourage your people to set aside the normal worship hour on Sunday and listen to good preaching. But be sure you suggest some preachers that are doctrinally sound and remind them that not everyone who talks about Jesus will be spiritually helpful.
Remind Them About the Ongoing Work of the Church
Remind them that the work of the church, including the normal expenses and ministry expenses (missions, salaries, etc.) continue and encourage them to mail in their offering. But be careful not to make every contact you have with them a financial appeal.
It is also good to remind your church that they can still minister to each other. Younger people may not need “checkup” phone calls. But you can encourage your small groups to set up some kind of buddy system so that each person has one or two others they talk to and pray for/with during the week. My friend Ron, who ministers in Milan, was telling me just recently that his church did that just before the virus broke out in Italy. Doing something similar will help your people maintain a sense of community during this time.
Make Yourself Available
There are probably people in your church who are worried, who are frightened, who face a loss of income. Let your church know that you’re available and that you can be contacted by email or by phone. Several churches have shut down their buildings and pastors have joined those who work from home. That might be a good idea for several reasons, not the least of which is reducing utility costs. Wherever you work, tell your people how you can be reached. Encourage them to call you or one of your other leaders if they need someone to pray with them.
Your sheep need to hear from their shepherd during this time. A pastor’s workload may be lighter, but the work goes on!